During the fourth quarter we invested in Fanuc ( FANUY), the leading factory automation and robotics company in the world with a market capitalization of $33 billion and an enterprise value of $25 billion. Based in Japan and spun out of Fujitsu in the 1970’s, Fanuc is a unique company with a long history of being the best and fastest to market in everything it does. Its visionary founder describes the Company’s mission as “walking the narrow path,” which refers to its relentless focus on producing only a limited number of products that are technically superior with the lowest possible cost structure. This targeted innovation combined with a strong emphasis on reliability and service has made virtually all of Fanuc’s products blockbusters. While serving completely different, cyclical markets, Fanuc reminds us of Apple in its product approach.
In its core Factory Automation division, Fanuc has capitalized on structural growth in automation by creating a huge moat in Computerized Numerical Control (“CNC”) systems and servo motors. It has become the global standard for machine tool control software and motors with a worldwide market share of 60%. The Company has built a global service/aftermarket support organization that is unrivaled by competitors in a business where switching costs are high. The division’s revenue correlates closely to Japanese machine tool orders, which are on the rise for multiple reasons including strong demand from the US and a depreciating yen. Additionally, Chinese factory automation is a substantial growth opportunity as rising wages, low productivity, and quality issues force companies in the region to automate. To get a sense of the opportunity: China’s CNC penetration rate of 30% today equals Japan’s levels 40 years ago. Fanuc is expanding CNC capacity by 40% in the next twelve months to meet these higher demand levels. Fanuc’s Robots division has achieved a cumulative sales growth of 60% in the past two years, capitalizing on a robust opportunity set across all major economies. In China, automotive industry robot density is still at less than 15% of the levels seen in Japan, while general industry robot density is at less than 5% of Japan’s. In Japan, capital equipment replacement demand, some re-shoring of manufacturing and labor shortages are creating multiple drivers for robot demand. The resurgence in US manufacturing is also providing strong demand, as automotive and general industry customers are increasing orders for lifting, picking, welding, painting, and dispensing robots. Virtually every large manufacturing footprint expansion in North America – from Airbus to Ford to Tesla – is taking place with Fanuc’s robots. Fanuc’s internal development of low cost full artificial vision systems and collaborative robots makes it best positioned to drive adoption in industries that have traditionally been unable to automate. We think that these innovations will double the size of the Robots division in only a few years. Continue Reading »